Cabbyl-ushtey, Ceffyl Dŵr, Ech-Ushkya, Nuggle, Shoopiltee

Similar to the Welsh Ceffyl Dŵr, they are said to be mischievous but rarely dangerous to humans (although, like its Welsh counterpart, you should not approach one, in case it tramples you to death, devours your carcass and throws your entrails to the water’s edge). One question people often as is how you can tell a Kelpie from a normal horse; the best way to do this is to look at the hooves - a Kelpie’s are backwards.

A kelpie is a water-horse of Scottish rivers (the water-horses of Scottish lochs are known as Ech-Ushkya) with deep green skin, black tails and manes, which is said to always drip of water. Kelpies may appear in either human or equine form. As humans (man or woman), they emerge from the water in the shape of a hairy and ungainly character who waits for a horseman riding by, then leaps from the heather to mount behind him. The terrified horseman’s first knowledge of the unwelcome passenger comes when two hairy arms encircle him, claping and crushing him in a deadly grip. He loses control of the horse, which gallops madly along the riverbank until the kelpie tires of the sport and slips back into the water.

When the kelpie appears in equine form, it is as a splendid young horse wearing a bridle. It waits by the roadside for a weary pedestrian, but if a man or woman is unwise enough to mount the kelpie it rushes into the river, swims to the deepest part, and disappears. A non-swimming rider will be in dire distress.

A kelpie does not, however always triumph. A person familiar with kelpie activities may carry an ordinary bridle with him, and when he sees the water-horse he should leap onto its back and quickly subsitute one bridle for another. A kelpie is said to have the strength of ten horses and the stamina of many more. He will then be able to make the kelpie work for him, and to use its bridle to work certain magical phenomena. Nevertheless a kelpie-owner should not keep the water-horse and its bridle for too long or make the creature work too hard, or it will curse the human and all his descendants forever.

It is said that the Clan MacGregor has a kelpie's bridle in their possession, passed down through generations. It is believed to have come from an ancestor, possibly a wizard, who took it from a kelpie, which he tamed, near Loch Slochd, a lake east of Loch Ness.

Some say that kelpies eat humans, but they may be confusing it with the Ech-Ushkya. This water-horse is definitely a people-eater. It appears as a handsome horse or pony which is easy to mount and ride, but anyone who ride an Ech-Ushkya finds it is impossible to dismount - its magical hide is sticky. The horse gallops off with him into the loch, and on the following morning a portion of his body drifts ashore as a token of his fate.

The presence of kelpies may be detected by their habit of wailing loudly before storms. The sound of its tail entering the water is said to resemble that of thunder. During storms, one may see their hooves galloping across the surface of the water.

The meaning of the word 'kelpie' may derive from the Scottish Gaelic words 'colpach' or 'cailpeach', meaning 'heifer' or 'colt'. The kelpie has different names in different parts of the British Isles: Isle of Man cabbyl-ushtey, Shetland shoopiltee, Orkney nuggle.

A similar water-horse in Scotland is the more vicious each uisge.

Origin: Scottish